When Breath Becomes Air [Review]

July 15, 2018

I’ve been meaning to read this book for quite some time now. After we compiled our reading challenge last year, there was a portion that said “read a book by a deceased author” and instantly I knew that I wanted to read this book. You can check out the reading challenge here. Lets get to it.

Book Details

Title: When Breath Becomes Air || Author:  Paul Kalanithi || Published: 12 January 2016 || Genres: Autobiography, Biography || Pages: 225


At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.

My thoughts

I’ve never read such a raw and moving memoir. The writing is just perfect not too much medical terms to a point where you don’t understand. I loved that.

I really related to some of the questions the author was struggling with, at some point I felt relieved that I’m not the only one who has been challenged by these questions.

I loved reading about the strength Paul reveals here and the support from family was just amazing.

Its so amazing to read about the decisions Paul had to make about his career when he was diagnosed and the ones they had to make as a family. Some of them led to this book. Its such a pity that he couldn’t finish the book but we got to understand something about his life and its as finished as its supposed to be. It would have been nice to see how he continued and ended the book. I loved that he decided to do something that he planned to do when he retired before he got really sick.

This book really broke me and it made me realize how much we’ve lost from cancer. I lost someone to cancer in 2014 and it was a hard time for my family. Reading this book was just another revelation I didn’t know I needed and I guess I read it during the right time as on the 18th of July its my sister’s birthday of whom we lost due to cancer.

I’d really recommend this book to anyone but be warned that you’ll cry most of the time especially towards the end.



“Its very easy to be number one: find the guy who is number one, and score one point higher than he does.”

“Brains give rise to our ability to form relationships and make life meaningful.”

“the questions intersecting life, death, and meaning, questions that all people face at some point, usually arise in a medical context.”

“You can’t ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving.”

Those were my thoughts and it pains me how many people we’ve lost due to cancer in the past few years, especially this year.

I’d like to know your thoughts if you’ve read this book.

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Until next time, lets keep reading.

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